Here we are, Titans fans. Nearly finished with an oft-called disappointing season and fresh off the ugliest win of the 2012 season on prime-time national television. And I just read Jake1010's take over at this link. It's easy to feel down right now. But for all those of us, freezing in the dead of winter and dismally watching our Titans attempt to crash-land into the end of the season, I offer this video.
That is Jake Locker's final 10-play drive during his star-studded Junior year at the University of Washington. The ten final plays that would lift Jake Locker and the Huskies over the third-seed USC Trojans, seven-time consecutive winner of the PAC 10 Championship -- only two games after becoming only the second team in modern NCAA history go winless: 0-12.
I began following UW athletics two games into that winless season, after beginning to consider applying to the Graduate School there and desiring a D-1 school to sate my desire for NCAA sports at a D-3 alma mater. And, as I watched Jake Locker "overly celebrate" that winning touchdown at BYU and the Huskies begin to fall into oblivion, I was struck with this odd warmth -- this overwhelming sense of hope: a light in the darkness. This fresh QB is a monster: a star waiting to burst into the spotlight. My dreams came true that next season. With Locker as a Sophomore, they were able to get their first win in fifteen games that second week against Idaho. It was an unexciting game, but my spirits were so high tasting a win. I donned my #10 purple jersey the following Saturday night and joined many of my friends in one of our dorm's TV rooms. While many of my friends were splitting time with other games and with duties such as home, my eyes were glued to the big flat-screen TV I had brought into the room for this very purpose. I was waiting for this team to prove themselves to be just as great as I saw them. With the game tied at 13 and very little time left, I watched those plays, my heart racing, and my throat burning through the screams, and my body endlessly energetic. After that dramatic drive, when Erik Folk tripped, my heart plummeted into my stomach as my eyes watched that ball rise through the uprights. My soul burst. I couldn't sleep for hours that night.
I got to watch Jake Locker and my newly loved Huskies succeed like I had never known, only to stall at 5-7. When Jake Locker came into Sark's office and announced his decision to stay his senior year (with his dog Ten, of course), my heart was unbelievably warmed. And I had excitement like never before. His senior year, Jake managed to defeat the much more highly ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in an unbelievably epic rematch at the Alamo Bowl. A few months later, Jake was draft by the Tennessee Titans. And I was so excited for the possibility. And here I am as a fresh, but devoted, Titans fan. And I am similarly excited for this team.
And I'd like to bring up a set of stats the intrigued me endlessly about last night:
Jake Locker played better against the Jets last night than every rookie or second-year QB this season except Russell Wilson and the amazingly talented Seattle Seahawks. In two meetings with the Jets, Ryan Tannehill managed a whopping QB rating of 50.2 and 50.4 in his respective games. With a combined zero touchdowns and one interception and by going 18 of 41 for a total 214 yards, he had a completion percentage of 43.9% and QBR's of 43.0 and 5.8. Even the godsend hallowed ROY candidate Andrew Luck had a disappointing outing against the surprisingly-potent Jets defense. He managed a QB rating of only 51.3, going 22 of 44 (50%) for 280 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions and a QBR of 40.4. Jake Locker, on the other hand, the young QB who many people are beginning to doubt at only eight starts and thirteen games, racked up a significantly-more-impressive 79.5 rating and 61.5 QBR while completing 13 of 22 (59.1%) passes. Granted it was only for 149 yards and no touchdowns, but it was clean. It was a bit like Alex Smith. A big, muscular Alex Smith, not afraid to push through some defenders when necessary. Locker made some passing errors and had some missed judgments, but at his worst, he would run for a couple of yards or no gain instead of risking interceptions or sacks.
All this belittling talk about Jake Locker isn't entirely correct, and it doesn't quite get the whole picture. Jake Locker wasn't too terrible last night. And comparing his outing against Luck's a couple weeks ago only makes me more certain. Jake Locker is already better than the majority of first- and second-year QB's and will only continue to grow as his coaching get itself figured out, we draft a good bit of defensive talent, and we stop being plagued by injuries. So relax, everyone. Despite our record, we're in good shape. And our young QB has nowhere to go but up after these promising showings. And, most importantly, we have plenty of reasons to feel hopeful and warm while the season ends and throughout the offseason.